One way to gain fulfillment and joy

I seem to bump into quite a few women who seem to either struggle with discouragement and mild depression or simply feel unfulfilled.  When it comes to both these conditions, there aren’t necessarily simple answers, but I do believe taking one particular step could bring significant help.  That step is to get outside yourself and begin serving those less fortunate!  Yes, really.

This is God’s instruction to us all.  In fact, He says in Isaiah 58 that the kind of “fasting” that he desires is not to look all religious by denying yourself food or pleasure.  Instead he desires us to “loose the chains of injustice…to share your food with the hungry…to provide the poor wanderer with shelter. He says “then your light will break forth like the dawn and your healing will quickly appear” (Isaiah 58:8)

Is it time to stop focusing on what’s wrong with your circumstances and to look for opportunities to serve those in need all around you?  I can almost guarantee that you WILL become more fulfilled when you begin helping others.  Try it!

How husbands react to emotions

Do you tend to get loud when you get upset?  Are you prone to big, dramatic displays of your emotions, whether joy, frustration or sadness?  Well you might not know this, but most men are really uncomfortable with big displays of emotion.  This isn’t true for ALL men, but for most men.

In other words, if you’re a drama queen….your husband will likely try to escape your presence!  He just doesn’t know what to do with your larger-than-life emotions.  Maybe this is why 1 Peter 3:4 advises wives to have the beauty that comes from a “gentle and quiet spirit“.   

Most men much prefer that their wives discuss their emotions, fears, disappointments, frustrations, and joy in a calm manner.  Your husband will be much more likely to engage in a meaningful discussion with you if you can speak in a normal tone of voice, without waving around your arms.  Try it!

God won’t waste your suffering

No one really embraces heartbreak or suffering.  We usually do everything we can to avoid it, and we often complain to God when He doesn’t put an end to it at our first request.  But maybe he is allowing the suffering for a really good reason.  Maybe He has purpose even when he allows us to experience disappointment or even heartbreak.

I think of several stories from the Bible.  Joseph’s story in Genesis, chapters 37-50, is a prime example.  Even though Joseph endured great suffering for many years as he wrongly spent time in prison, God had a masterful plan he was executing behind the scenes….a plan that would involve Joseph rising to great power in Egypt and helping his family gain food during a famine in Israel.  I also think of the great apostles Peter and Paul.  They were beaten and thrown into prison, but God later miraculously freed them from prison and their story inspired many to follow Christ.

The Bible reveals that there is purpose in suffering and heartbreak.  Romans 5:3-5 says “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”   So, perhaps instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or feeling anger toward God, maybe you and I should choose to trust God even in the midst of heartbreak.  Maybe we should ask God to use our suffering to build our character.  God won’t waste your heartbreak.  He will use it to do something beautiful.

If your heart is growing hard toward him…

I know what it’s like for a wife’s heart to grow hard and cold toward her husband.  I let that happen in my first marriage of 18 years…a marriage that ended in divorce.  Don’t let that happen to you.  Your marriage and your family are worth fighting for!

In my experience, the reason a wife’s heart grows cold usually comes down to two things.  She has not established firm, clear boundaries on disrespectful or destructive behavior…or she has expected her husband to make her happy and blames him for failing to do so.  Could one of these reasons apply to you?

Boundaries:  It is Biblical to lovingly confront someone who is sinning against you and establish boundaries in that relationship…with the goal being that the person will repent and be welcomed back into full relationship.  Read Matthew 18:15-17 to learn what Jesus has to say about this.  Also keep in mind Galatians 6:1, which says. “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.”

Expectations:  If you expect your husband to make you happy, realize you have an unrealistic expectation!  The only one who you can trust 100% to bring you fulfillment, joy, and perfect love is….the Lord!  Make the relationship with Him your top priority, and once you feel secure in that relationship, your heart will likely become softer and more compassionate toward your husband.

— or view this topic as a 3 minute VIDEO BELOW

Are you too serious?

There have been so many times that I have lost my cool over a trivial mistake I’ve made!  I beat myself up and feel disgusted with myself. Perhaps you’ve done the same thing a time or two.  What makes the situation even worse is then I become a grump around my husband and children. Because I have worked myself into a foul mood, it infects them as well. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that we need to be able to laugh at some of our mistakes.

Sometimes, we take ourselves too seriously!! Often, we feel we have to be “right” all the time.  Many times in the past, my pride has kept me from being able to laugh at myself when I made an error.  How about you?  Are you too serious?  Are you a perfectionist? 

These days, I’m trying to let go of my pride and admit I’m a human being who isn’t perfect 100% of the time!  You know what I’ve found?  Everyone, including my husband, seems to like me better.   Humility is such an attractive quality.  Psalm 18:27 says “You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.”  Let’s work on being humble this week.  When we mess up, and we will, let’s LOL. 

What is considered emotional abuse?

Yesterday, we examined what constitutes physical abuse within a marriage.  Today, let’s explore something much more subtle and overlooked…verbal and emotional abuse.  Once again, I strongly urge women to take a stand against abuse of any kind.  Keep in mind, you are showing your children (especially your daughters) that either women are supposed to be weak, helpless, perpetual victims or that women can be confident and strong while still displaying love and kindness.

After doing much research, here’s a fairly comprehensive list of behavior that constitutes verbal or emotional abuse:  Frequently calling you obscene names, often yelling in rage, a pattern of constantly criticizing you and putting you down, prolonged periods of refusing to talk to you at all, pattern of ridiculing or making fun of you, pattern of mocking you or mean-spirited sarcasm,  verbal threats of violence, intimidation through displaying knives or guns, constantly accusing you of wrongdoing, forbidding you to talk to parents or siblings, preventing you from leaving the house, refusing to allow you to talk on the phone, forbidding you from speaking to friends or neighbors.

Again, I urge you to take a stand against this kind of abuse.  You are a valuable woman.  You are God’s daughter and precious in His sight.  Don’t allow yourself to be emotionally pummeled.  You will slowly be destroyed.  That is NOT God’s plan for you. Yes, the Christian wife is supposed to submit to her husband’s leadership, but husbands are told by God in Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives and never treat them harshly.” Also, God instructs us to guard our hearts in Proverbs 4:23….”Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life“.  If you are suffering this kind of abuse, please talk to your pastor, pastor’s wife, or a certified counselor.  Your husband may be upset, but you must protect your heart.  By the way, if you fear for your physical safety as a result of revealing the emotional abuse, then take protective measures such as moving to a friend’s home or a domestic violence shelter while you work through the issues with your husband.

Recognizing physical abuse in a relationship

I was talking with a wife the other day who has endured physical abuse from her husband for years.  It began so slowly that it she didn’t realize she was the victim of domestic violence until her injuries had become pretty serious.  I was reminded that wives, especially Christian wives, need to be alerted to what actually constitutes physical abuse. 

Theses things constitute physical abuse:  Punching, slapping, shoving aggressively, kicking, trapping physically (as against a wall), twisting arm painfully, throwing objects at you aggressively, biting, pulling your hair painfully, a pattern of refusing to allow you to sleep, regularly requiring you to work until exhaustion or while sick, tying you up against your will, forcing you to perform sex acts against your will, forcing himself on you sexually against your will, forcing you to use alcohol or drugs, denying you medical care.

If your husband or boyfriend is currently doing any of those above things, call 911 and seek immediate protection at your local domestic violence shelter.  If these behaviors are not currently occurring but have occurred fairly recently, you still need help.  I strongly urge you to call your local, confidential domestic violence hotline.  It’s time for Christian wives to stop excusing or tolerating abuse!  The Bible makes it clear that husbands are to treat their wives kindly.  1 Peter 3:7 instructs husbands to be considerate of their wives and to treat them with honor as the weaker vessel.  Furthermore, Ephesians 5:11 says “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them”.  So, don’t cover up your husband’s or boyfriend’s abuse.  He is not your enemy, but he needs to be stopped, both for his own good and for your welfare.

One way to show the respect he craves

All men crave respect, and husbands especially crave the respect of their wives. In fact, the Bible even commands wives to respect their husbands! You can find this instruction in Ephesians 5:33. The question is: How can you offer respect to your husband in a meaningful way?

Here is one way to show your husband respect and honor. Ask his opinion about how he would like things to go in your home and in your marriage relationship, listen attentively, and actually incorporate his opinion within reason. When you do this, you are showing him that he matters! You are also carrying out another instruction to wives found in Ephesians 5:22 where God says “Wives, submit to your husbands, as to the Lord.”

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about. Have you asked your husband how he likes you to dress or fix your hair? Why not honor him by doing things the way he likes? Have you asked your husband what’s most important to him when he walks through the door at the end of his workday? Would he like you and the kids to greet him at the door with kisses, or would he prefer to have 10 minutes of peace and quiet to unwind? Have you asked your husband how many activities/sports he thinks are ideal for the children? Ask him, listen to his opinion, and begin incorporating his desires into your routine. This will communicate respect, and when he feels your respect, your whole marriage relationship will likely improve!

Consider this when talking about your hubby

It’s actually a really awesome thing when you talk about your husband in public! Well, it’s really awesome IF what you’re sharing is complimentary! In fact, it’s one of the kindest things you can do for your husband. Men are wired to crave respect and affirmation. That’s why God instructs wives in Ephesians 5:33 to “respect their husbands”. I have seen my husband begin glowing (in a masculine sort of way!) when I affirm him in front of his friends or our family members.

However, there is a flip side to this business of speaking publicly about your guy. My husband tells me one of the very worst things a wife can do is to disclose some of her husband’s failures, character deficiencies or mistakes in front of friends and family. He says when a wife shares her husband’s personal failings, he’s absolutely devastated and emasculated. Don’t emasculate your man! If he begins feeling that way, he will likely subconsciously gravitate toward another woman who will build him up instead of tearing him down.

One other note: Obviously, if your husband is engaged in a pattern of sin, it’s appropriate to disclose those kinds of personal failings to a counselor or pastor as you two are seeking help in your marriage. Just don’t go broadcasting his mistakes and failures during gatherings with friends, family, co-workers, or church members!

The tendency to compare yourself with other women

It is so incredibly easy to get out of balance as a wife, mother, employee, homemaker, ministry leader, etc. We focus on our roles and begin feeling pretty insecure. We start comparing ourselves to other women and feel we’re somehow lacking. Then we start picking up self-help books, we google “how to become a better ________”, we attend classes and workshops, we beat ourselves up for not being as “good” as other women, and we relentlessly push ourselves to be better!

The crazy thing is that we get so consumed with beating ourselves up and reading self-help books that we push our relationship with God farther and farther away! I mean, who even has time for God when we are completely focused on being as “good” as the other women around us.

As I was pondering this dilemma the other day, I sensed God convict my heart in a way that I had not expected. Instead of him assuring me that I’m amazing the way I am, God gently revealed to me that these thoughts that “I’m not good enough” are really prideful thoughts! In other words, I want people to like me, to approve of me, to think I’m pretty incredible as a wife, a mom, a ministry leader, etc! This tendency to compare myself is actually rooted in pride. Ugh. We know that pride is something God detests.

What’s a woman to do? Well, how about if we agree with God that we’re NOT “good enough” and that Jesus is the only one who is?! How about every time we start comparing ourselves to other women, we stop ourselves and remind ourselves how thankful we should be that Jesus died to save us from our imperfections and sin? Maybe at that very moment, we should turn our thoughts toward Jesus in gratitude and adoration. In that moment, spend time worshipping your creator and Savior. Colossians 3:1-2 “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your heart on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.”

Bonus: When I start worshipping the Lord in song, I find that I quickly gain a whole new perspective on what’s important. I am better able to choose how to spend my limited time and energy. I don’t feel so driven to compete with other women. As you focus on the majesty, grace and love of Christ, you will develop a heart posture that brings balance and peace.

— or view this topic as a 4 minute VIDEO